As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s grace.
I Peter 4:10
For the past several years in the parish where I’ve served, we’ve encouraged parishioners to choose a word to define their year. Instead of making New Years’ resolutions that most people not only won’t keep but won’t even remember, we’ve got people focused on the concept of choosing one word to define their year. (This concept is based on a book entitled “My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word” by Mike Ashcraft.) Likewise, we choose one word as a parish to define our year. As we wrap up 2022, I will make one final comment on the word our parish used for 2022.
It was the word STEWARDS.
A steward is a temporary caretaker. We can be a steward of all kinds of things. Perhaps the most basic example of being a steward is being a steward of the moment you are in. Because moments are temporary. At this moment, I am writing at my computer. I’m doing something responsible and hopefully edifying. Am I a good steward of my family at THIS moment? The answer is no, my family is not here. That doesn’t mean I am not a good steward of my family, but that if stewardship is based on the moment you are in, I’m not with my family at this moment. Later on, when I’m home with my family, my thoughts will not be on the Prayer Team, as they are right now, because then I won’t be a good steward in the moment I am with my family. A priest once talked about being a steward of your life, each and every distinct moment of it.
We are stewards of families, marriages, parents, children, jobs, homes, our planet, our country (being responsible law-abiding citizens), our talents, our time, our opportunities, our bodies our faith and our churches. Let me focus on the stewardship of our bodies for a moment. We are a steward of our bodies, our overall health, our died and our rest. On a given day, we might be resting and relaxing, and we might wonder or others might wonder are we being good stewards of the moments when we are relaxing? I would say yes we can be a good steward of our lives even if we are relaxing because we need to rest our bodies and our minds—that was not a suggestion by God, but a commandment. We should relax every day or all day long, that would make us a bad steward. But rest is an important part of being a steward of our bodies.
The second aspect of stewards that I want to touch on as we complete our journey of 2022 is being stewards of our faith and our churches. Each of us will live on this earth for a finite amount of time, only known to God. During this time, as we have said, we are stewards (temporary caretakers) of many things. Included in these things is our faith as Orthodox Christians, as well as taking care of our churches. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) commissions us (doesn’t suggest to us, but commands us) to make disciples of all nations. It is an expectation that every Christian will spread the Gospel. We can lead in one of two ways, either by example or by direction. We can lead Christian lives that are worthy to be emulated by others, who will see our good works and glorify God on their own through our example. And then there is the direct teaching of others which we can do in our families, our friends, we can teach Sunday school etc.
The church exists as the base where we spread the Gospel. Think of the church like a spaceship, and the people of the church as astronauts. The astronauts leave the ship for spacewalks, as they go exploring space. The spaceship doesn’t explore; it ferries the explorers. The astronauts need the spaceship so that they can prepare for their spacewalks, rest when they get tired, and restock with ample supplies for the next venture. In similar fashion, the church gives us spiritual rest and relaxation, it also recharges us with ample “supplies” for the journey outside the church, and gives us our very “life” through Holy Communion and the sacrament. As stewards of the church, we offer our time in worship and learning, our talent in the ministries, and our treasure to finance the church (i.e. pay the salaries, upkeep the buildings, pay for the ministries, and give to charitable causes). Notice that included “charitable causes” in the list of the things that a parish does and that our stewardship is supposed to do for a parish. A parish is not merely supposed to get by, have enough merely to survive. It is supposed to thrive. It is supposed to not only minister to its members but to reach out to those who are not members, especially to those in need of charity. As we conclude this year and look towards a new one, it is a good time to evaluate how we are doing as stewards of our faith and our churches, and how well we are living out the Great Commission.
Lord, You have given grace to each person in a different way. Thank You for giving a gift and talent to each person, and a unique way for each person to contribute both to the world and to the spreading of the Gospel in the world. Thank You for the gifts that are unique to me (list them). Thank You for the opportunities that are unique to me (list them). Help me at all times to be a good steward of the life You’ve given me, the breath You’ve blessed me with, the people that will cross my path and the opportunities that will come my way. Help me to be a good and faithful steward to all that You have given to me. Amen.
Stay tuned tomorrow—We’ll reveal the word for our church for 2023 and give you some practical ideas on how to pick a word that will define your year!